Russia pushes U.N. Security Council on Syria sovereignty

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia asked the United Nations Security Council on Friday to call for Syria’s sovereignty to be respected, for cross-border shelling and incursions to be halted and for “attempts or plans for foreign ground intervention” to be abandoned.

Russia circulated a short draft resolution to the 15-member council over concerns about an escalation in hostilities after Turkey this week said it and other countries could commit ground troops to Syria.

The Security Council met on Friday afternoon to discuss the draft, but veto-powers the United States, France and Britain all said it had no future.

“Rather than trying to distract the world with the resolution they just laid down, it would be really great if Russia implemented the resolution that’s already agreed to,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told reporters after the meeting.

She was referring to a resolution unanimously agreed by the Security Council in December that endorsed an international road map for a Syria peace process.

The Russian draft, seen by Reuters, would have the council express “its grave alarm at the reports of military buildup and preparatory activities aimed at launching foreign ground intervention into the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

It also demands that states “refrain from provocative rhetoric and inflammatory statements inciting further violence and interference into internal affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Reuters this week that his country, Saudi Arabia and some European powers wanted ground troops in Syria, though no serious plan had been debated.

Russian air strikes have helped to bring the Syrian army to within 25 km (15 miles) of Turkey’s borders, while Kurdish militia fighters, regarded by Ankara as hostile insurgents, have also gained ground, heightening the sense of urgency.

Turkey has been shelling positions of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in response to what it says is hostile fire coming across the border into Turkey.

Russia’s relations with Turkey hit a low in November when Turkish warplanes downed a Russian bomber near the Syrian-Turkish border, a move described by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “dastardly stab in the back.”

Syria’s civil war was sparked by a Syrian government crackdown on a pro-democracy movement in early 2011. Islamic State militants have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq, and some 4.3 million Syrians have fled the country.

The U.N. says at least 250,000 people have been killed.

A U.S.-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets since September 2014. Russia began air strikes in Syria in September 2015.

Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Leslie Adler, Sandra Maler and Andrew Hay